A Texas Republican announced over the weekend that he plans to resign his post as a member of the Electoral College rather than cast a ballot for US President-elect Donald Trump, a man he deems "not biblically qualified for office."
Citing his Christian religion and his understanding of representative democracy, Art Sisneros wrote in a blog post that he could neither vote for Mr. Trump nor break his promise to do so by voting for anyone else. Texas does not require its 38 electors to vote in accordance with the state's presidential election results, but Mr. Sisneros says he made a pledge to the Texas GOP that his vote next month in Austin would follow the will of the general public.
"The reality is Trump will be our President, no matter what my decision is," Sisneros wrote. "Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector."
Tom Mechler, Texas GOP chairman, said a replacement for Sisneros will be selected by the remaining electors when they meet Dec. 19.
"We respect Mr. Sisneros’s decision and appreciate his willingness to step down from his position as a Presidential Elector in Texas," Mr. Mechler said in a statement, as Politico reported.
The announcement comes as Democrats have sought to persuade Republican electors to turn against Trump in favor of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While the effort will more than likely fail, it could begin to unravel one of the nation's most controversial political institutions, as The Christian Science Monitor's Weston Williams wrote last week:
The plan hinges on so-called "faithless electors," members of the Electoral College who vote against the candidate who won the majority in their particular state. During the US presidential race, Americans do not vote directly for their preferred candidate. In reality, the ballots they cast go to electors, who then go on to theoretically cast a vote on their behalf.
There have been only 157 faithless electors in all of American history, according to the nonprofit FairVote, and none have affected a presidential race.
Since this year marks the fifth US presidential election in which the Electoral College winner lost the popular vote, with Mrs. Clinton expected to carry as many as 2.5 million votes more than Trump, there has been a renewed call to review, amend, or even dismantle the Electoral College system, which was designed to provide an added layer of protection.
Alexander Hamilton, one of the nation's Founding Fathers, described the electors' function in the Federalist Papers: "A small number of persons, selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations."
This understanding of the electors is one which Sisneros cites in his blog post as well, comparing the relationship between electors and the American public as loosely reflective of the relationship between parents and the family unit.
"Good parents act in the best interest of their children. At times this may even be contrary to the desire of the children," Sisneros wrote. "In most homes, kids do not have the right to vote to eat Skittles for dinner. It is not in their best interest. The parents have a delegated authority to protect those under their jurisdiction."
Because others have made clear to him that they expect all Republican electors to fall in line and vote for Trump, however, the Electoral College has been reduced to a formality within a pure democracy, Sisneros added.
"The people will get their vote. They will get their Skittles for dinner. I will sleep well at night knowing I neither gave in to their demands nor caved to my convictions," he wrote. "I will also mourn the loss of our republic."